Crime & Justice

Crime & Justice
3:14 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Report: Texas Led Nation in Exonerations Last Year

The watchtower at Huntsville Prison. Texas lead the nation in the number of exonerees last year.
Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Texas exonerated more prisoners – 13 – than any other state last year.

A report out today shows a nationwide push by prosecutors to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013. The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people were exonerated last year.

The Texas Tribune has more:

Thirteen Texans were officially absolved of wrongdoing last year for crimes ranging from murder to drug possession. Some had spent more than a decade in prison, and others a few months. The state with the second-most exonerations was Illinois, with nine, followed by New York, with eight. 

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Crime & Justice
1:36 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Immigration Reform Activists Arrested During Protest

Cristina Parker gets arrested during a protest against the Secure Communities program.
Julian Aguilar/Texas Tribune

Travis County sheriff’s deputies on Monday saw firsthand what immigration-reform activists hope will be a series of civil disobedience protests across Texas.

As part of a publicity campaign, a group of six activists blocked the exit gate at the Travis County Jail; they were arrested and will likely be charged with criminal trespass. The protesters hope the actions will prompt county officials to reconsider a controversial finger-printing initiative opponents say deports non-violent undocumented immigrants.

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Police
4:29 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

No Injuries in Officer-Involved Shooting in North Austin

An Austin Police officer is on paid administrative leave after using force against a suspect. There were no injuries and the suspect is in custody.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin police are investigating an officer-involved shooting that occurred at 1:42 p.m. Saturday near Interstate 35 and Rundberg Lane.

According to Police Chief Art Acevedo, there were no injuries and the suspect is in custody.

The shooting occurred when a police officer responded to a car accident at a Shell gas station. The suspect, whose name has not yet been released, had struck another vehicle and was allegedly leaving the scene. When the officer tried to flag the suspect down, he did not stop and drove the vehicle toward the officer. The officer, whose name has also not yet been released, got out of the way. When the suspect stopped again, the officer told him to get out of the car, but he again drove the car toward the officer. That's when the officer fired several rounds at the car.

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Crime & Justice
10:56 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Mexican National Executed In Texas After Supreme Court Denies Appeal

This handout image provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Edgar Tamayo.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 9:56 pm

Wednesday's execution of a Mexican national in Texas revived a long-running diplomatic row between the United States and its southern neighbor.

Updated at 10:50 p.m. ET: Execution Carried Out

The Associated Press reports:

"A Mexican man has been executed in Texas for killing a Houston police officer, despite pleas and diplomatic pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department to halt the punishment.

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Crime & Justice
3:17 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Amber Alert Discontinued for 16-Year-Old North Texas Girl (Update)

Police say the man suspected in the abduction of Inez Ramirez is driving a red 2006 Chevy Silverado.
Texas Department of Public Safety

The Ellis County Sheriff's Department has discontinued this Amber Alert.

Law enforcement authorities across Texas are looking for a missing 16-year-old girl. Inez Ramirez was last seen in Red Oaks, Texas – south of Dallas.

Ramirez is 5'2" and weighs about 130 pounds. She has brown shoulder-length hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a green shirt and black shorts.

Police believe she may be with 23-year-old Edger Barron. He’s 5'9", weighs about 145 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

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Crime & Justice
11:36 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Civil Rights Groups Say Video Jail Visits Too Costly, May Violate Civil Rights

The Travis County Jail's video-visiting system has been called into question by some alleging it serves as a pipeline for prosecutorial evidence.
flickr.com/duluoz_cats

This is an article from our Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily).

A two-way video conferencing system that has all but replaced in-person visits by friends and family members with those incarcerated at the Travis County Jail is coming under fire  as being too expensive, too impersonal and possibly even dangerous to an inmate’s health. Critics are also concerned about the possibility that attorney-client conversations are being illegally recorded and provided to prosecutors.

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Crime & Justice
6:56 am
Thu January 9, 2014

How Would You React In A Shooting? Have A Plan, Experts Say

Newtown, Conn., Dec. 20, 2012: Stuffed animals and a candle arrangement at a streetside memorial for the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 9:28 am

The annual number of mass murders and attempted mass murders in the U.S. has tripled since 2008, to 15 last year, according to statistics that the FBI and Justice Department have been citing in recent weeks.

In a new study posted online by the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, experts make the case that "police have, generally, done an excellent job responding to active shooter events quickly."

But, they add:

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Crime & Justice
2:51 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Montopolis Residents Battle Alleged Housing Scam

A home in the Montopolis area. The Texas Civil Rights Project says a group is tricking seniors into signing over the rights to their homes.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project is calling on local authorities to investigate a string of suspicious housing deals that could cause seniors to lose their homes.

A company called Castro has been approaching Montopolis residents to see if they qualify for free home repairs paid for by the government. According to homeowners, the solicitors urged them to sign contracts granting Castro full legal rights over their homes.

Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Brian McGiverin says the Travis County District Attorney and the Texas Attorney General must investigate immediately.

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Privacy
3:47 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Intelligence Panel Recommends Limits On NSA Surveillance

The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:31 pm

(This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET)

A panel looking into U.S. electronic surveillance activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations has recommended removing the NSA's authority to collect and store Americans' telephone data.

The key recommendation was one of dozens that the panel put forward; however, it did not propose a wholesale scaling back of domestic spying by the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches.

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Privacy
2:33 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Federal Judge Rules NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Unconstitutional

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 3:31 pm

A federal judge in Washington says the National Security Agency's program for bulk phone record collection violates Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy.

The ruling (pdf), however, has been stayed pending a likely appeal.

Judge Richard Leon says the sweeping NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

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Crime & Justice
10:19 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Study Shows Texans Support Changing How The State Punishes Drug Crimes

Rather than locking people up for non-violent drug offenses, the latest poll shows Texans favor rehab, which experts say also saves money.
Flickr user 710928003 cc

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 9:43 am

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.  

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CPRIT
12:12 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Former Executive at CPRIT, Texas' Cancer Agency, Indicted

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announces the indictment of former CPRIT executive Jerald Cobbs.

A Travis County grand jury has indicted Jerald Cobbs, a former executive with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), in connection with an $11 million grant the agency approved without putting it through required reviews.

The charge of securing execution of a document by deception carries a potential jail sentence of five to 99 years or life, and a fine of up to $10,000.

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Keller Day Care Case
5:02 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Jailed For 'Satanic Abuse' Few Believe Happened, Fran & Dan Keller Free After 21 Years

Jordan Smith's 2009 article on the Keller case set the couple’s appeal in motion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Dan Keller walked out of the Travis County Jail this afternoon after 21 years in prison. He was greeted with an embrace from his wife Fran, released from her own imprisonment last week.

As the two left the jail, Dan Keller denied any bitterness over his two­-plus decades in prison. 

“I forgave everybody,” Keller said. “It’s no use to hate somebody … man ain’t supposed to do that. Lord didn’t hate anybody when they put him on the cross. He said ‘I forgive you,’ and I forgave them. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

Original story (Nov. 27): A Central Texas woman is now free after spending more than 20 years behind bars.

Fran Keller and her husband Dan were both sentenced to 48 years for so-called “satanic ritual abuse” at their Austin-area day care.

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Crime & Justice
3:14 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

In Austin, Less Than 10 Percent of Property Crimes Get Solved

Theives broke into the reporter's home through a glass door in October.
Joy Diaz/KUT News

If you live in Austin, chances are you or someone you know has been the victim of a property crime. 

That’s because Austin is one of the worst cities nationwide when it comes to property crime.

FBI numbers show Austin’s property crime rates are worse than New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles. Property crimes are so prevalent that a couple of years ago, the Austin Police Department created its very first Burglary Unit.

Every month almost 4,000 property crimes happen in Austin.

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Same-Sex Marriage
10:43 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Same-Sex Couples Await Federal Judge's Injunction Decision On Texas Marriage Laws

Mark Phariss (red hair) and his partner Vic Holmes, two of the main plaintiffs in the Texas.
Photo provided by Mark Phariss

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 1:03 pm

Two same-sex couples from Texas are waiting for a decision on a temporary injunction filed in federal court against the Texas laws that ban same-sex marriage. The case in Texas is just one part of seven cases in other states with the goal of having the U.S. Supreme Court resolve the issue.

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